Improving Electoral Integrity with Information and Communications Technology
Last registered on January 13, 2017

Pre-Trial

Trial Information
General Information
Title
Improving Electoral Integrity with Information and Communications Technology
RCT ID
AEARCTR-0001890
Initial registration date
January 13, 2017
Last updated
January 13, 2017 9:29 AM EST
Location(s)
Region
Primary Investigator
Affiliation
UCLA
Other Primary Investigator(s)
PI Affiliation
University of California, San Diego
PI Affiliation
Emory University
PI Affiliation
University of Washington
Additional Trial Information
Status
Completed
Start date
2011-01-01
End date
2011-02-19
Secondary IDs
Abstract
Irregularities plague elections in developing democracies. The international community spends hundreds of millions of dollars on election observation, with little robust evidence that they consistently improve electoral integrity. We conducted a randomized control trial to measure the effect of an intervention to detect and deter electoral irregularities employing a nation-wide sample of polling stations in Uganda using scalable information and communications technology (ICT). In treatment stations, researchers delivered letters to polling officials stating that tallies would be photographed using smartphones and compared against official results. Compared to stations with no letters, the letters increased the frequency of posted tallies by polling center managers in compliance with the law; decreased the number of sequential digits found on tallies - a fraud indicator; and decreased the vote share for the incumbent president, in some specifications. Our results demonstrate that a cost-effective citizen and ICT intervention can improve electoral integrity in emerging democracies.
External Link(s)
Registration Citation
Citation
Callen, Michael et al. 2017. "Improving Electoral Integrity with Information and Communications Technology." AEA RCT Registry. January 13. https://www.socialscienceregistry.org/trials/1890/history/13096
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Experimental Details
Interventions
Intervention(s)
The intervention consisted of letters delivered by researchers to polling center officials during voting on election day.

Three versions of the letter constituted the treatment arms of the experiment. Control centers received no letter:

1) The "Monitoring" letter informed officials that researchers would return to take a photograph of the Declaration of Results form - the tally - that electoral law requires managers to post at the polling center after ballot counting, and that these results would be compared with the center's final count as certified by the Ugandan Electoral Commission (EC).
2) The "Punishment" letter reminded polling center managers of the 2.4 million Ugandan shilling fine and/or five years imprisonment for inaccurately reporting voting returns.
3) The third "Combination" letter included both the monitoring and punishment treatments.
Intervention Start Date
2011-02-18
Intervention End Date
2011-02-19
Primary Outcomes
Primary Outcomes (end points)
Differences in vote totals, "Missing" votes - absences of provisional tallies, "Adjacent" vote totals - are the last two digits in a candidate’s vote total the same, "Museveni votes" - log of the total number of votes for the incumbent president Museveni
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
Secondary Outcomes
Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
Experimental Design
Experimental Design
Researchers conducted a randomized control trial to measure the effect of an intervention to detect and deter electoral irregularities employing a nation-wide sample of polling stations in Uganda using scalable information and communications technology (ICT). The intervention compares smartphone photographs of Declaration of Results forms - which are posted at polling stations and list vote totals for each candidate - against the corresponding records published by the Election Commission at the conclusion of the election. In theory, this approach should allow researchers to perfectly observe any votes that are altered during the aggregation process. The experiment involves delivering a randomized announcement of election monitoring, indicating the use of this smartphone technology. Researchers measure the impacts of communicating information related to both monitoring and to punishments for malfeasance on election fraud.
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
STATA
Randomization Unit
polling center
Was the treatment clustered?
No
Experiment Characteristics
Sample size: planned number of clusters
1,001 polling centers
Sample size: planned number of observations
5,007 survey respondents
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
Monitoring: 227 polling centers
Punishment: 227 polling centers
Combination: 227 polling centers
Control: 320 polling centers
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
IRB
INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARDS (IRBs)
IRB Name
UCSD IRB
IRB Approval Date
Details not available
IRB Approval Number
Project #110178XX
Post-Trial
Post Trial Information
Study Withdrawal
Intervention
Is the intervention completed?
Yes
Intervention Completion Date
February 19, 2011, 12:00 AM +00:00
Is data collection complete?
Yes
Data Collection Completion Date
February 19, 2011, 12:00 AM +00:00
Final Sample Size: Number of Clusters (Unit of Randomization)
913 polling stations
Was attrition correlated with treatment status?
Yes
Final Sample Size: Total Number of Observations
Final Sample Size (or Number of Clusters) by Treatment Arms
Data Publication
Data Publication
Is public data available?
No

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Program Files
Program Files
Reports and Papers
Preliminary Reports
Relevant Papers
Abstract
Improving Electoral Integrity with Information and Communications Technology
Citation
Callen, Michael, Clark Gibson, Danielle Jung, and James D. Long. "Improving Electoral Integrity with Information and Communications Technology." Journal of Experimental Political Science, available on CJO2015. DOI:10.1017/XPS.2015.14.